Thursday, March 31, 2011

SubRosa: No Help for the Mighty Ones (2011)

Heavy Week, Part 5


Profound Lore never fails to find the most unique and interesting bands out there, often from places you'd never think to look. SubRosa is one of those. Hailing from Salt Lake City, of all places, they are an avant-garde sludge/doom outfit, the preponderance of whom are female. The men provide the rhythm section, but three women provide guitars, vocals, and violin. Yeah, violin.

And oh, does it work.

No Help for the Mighty OnesThe male rhythm section provides a strong backbone. The drums are extremely understated, with only occasional fills. But as any doom afficianado knows, slow drumming can be tougher than fast, and at slower paces keeping time is even more important. There can be no complaints about this performance. The bass is fuzzy and consistently heavy throughout the album, and is perhaps the only instrument to never go silent (except on "House Carpenter", but I'll get to that later). The guitars mostly act as part of the rhythm section as well, occasionally getting psychedelic but usually acting in tandem with the bass to lay down slow, heavy, trance-inducing riffs.

What really sets SubRosa apart are the violins and vocals. Violinist has taken on the role lead guitarist, evoking a variety of feels ranging from the psychedelic, to the mournful, to the dangerous. The vocals remind me of 60's folk music. They're not particularly skillful in any traditional understanding, but singing on key at all times would be a detriment. These vocals have soul like you wouldn't believe, something not often heard in women's vocals for the last half a century. In a few angrier sections (on "Beneath the Crown", for example) there are also some growls used as backing vocals.

Now, having a unique sound is only part of the equation. You also have to have the compositional skills. But SubRosa have that in spades, starting the album strong and ending it even stronger. Many of the melodies are interesting and memorable, their memorability enhanced by the imperfect vocals. And even though the style is consistent throughout the album, each track has its own identity and feel. Plus, they throw in a curveball with the a capella "House Carpenter" (a traditional English folk song). And the album wouldn't feel complete without it, either. Any cut could have been singled out as a highlight of the album, but "Whippoorwill" is especially haunting.

The Verdict: Like cult favorites Acid Bath, SubRosa is that rare kind of unique, compelling band where absolutely everything clicks exactly the way it should, and yet nobody could ever copy it. And No Help for the Mighty Ones is a perfect statement. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.


  1. Sounds intriguing. I will probably have to sample stuff off of it before diving in though.

  2. Yeah, it's definitely different, so it's not for everyone. I love it, obviously.